Texters Beware: Potential Liability for Those Who Send Texts to Drivers

The dangers of texting while driving are widespread and well-known. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a driver is 23 times more likely to get in an accident while texting and, in 2011 alone, over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes.

Texting drivers who cause auto accidents are often liable for any accidents, injuries, and deaths that occur as a result of their negligent driving, but a New Jersey court recently opened the door to expanded liability for distracted driving, indicating that even those who text to drivers may be liable for resulting auto accidents.

In Kubert v. Best, 2013 WL 4512313 (N.J. Super. App. Div. Aug. 27, 2013), the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division held that tort liability may attach to a person who sends a text to someone he or she knows is driving a motor vehicle and will immediately read the text, if the driver then loses control of the vehicle and causes injury.

“We hold that, when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time,” said the court.

Although the court ultimately found that the defendant – a teen who sent several messages to a friend while he was driving – was not liable for an auto accident that killed the plaintiffs’ son, the court indicated that there are circumstances in which a non-driving texter may be liable for auto accidents.

“[I]f the sender knows that the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately, then the sender has taken a foreseeable risk in sending a text at that time,” the court wrote. “The sender has knowingly engaged in distracting conduct, and it is not unfair also to hold the sender responsible for the distraction.”

Texting while driving may be one of the most dangerous types of distracted driving, but new research shows that the dangers of distracted driving extend far beyond just visual and manual distractions. Although hands-free technologies make it easier for motorists to text or talk on the phone while driving, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that cognitive distractions can increase reaction times, compromise brain function, and result in missed visual cues, all of which can result in auto accidents.

At Ankin Law, LLC, our Chicago auto accident lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of distracted driving by holding all responsible parties liable, including drivers and any potential third parties. We help clients obtain maximum financial recovery following auto accidents caused by distracted driving from all possible sources. Our skilled Illinois auto accident attorneys have vast legal knowledge regarding auto accident lawsuits, along with considerable experience representing clients in distracted driving lawsuits, which allows us to effectively advocate on behalf of our clients.

While liability for the role of a texting sender in a distracted driving lawsuit is still a bit unsettled, the Chicago auto accident lawyers at Ankin Law will continue to monitor the legal landscape and pursue all potential legal claims on behalf of our clients. If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by distracted driving, contact one of our Chicago car accident attorneys to learn more about how we can help you seek financial recovery through a personal injury lawsuit.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

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